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Comment: Buffalo, NY in Winter (Score 2) 867

by Erik Noren (#44375779) Attached to: Door-To-Door Mail Delivery To End Under New Plan

The idea that somebody is going to walk down to their mailbox in Buffalo, New York, in the winter snow to get their mail is just crazy.

If a person doesn't keep their path shoveled enough to walk to their own mailbox, why should the mail carrier trek up to their door? Where I grew up if you didn't shovel the mail carrier wouldn't even bother. Maybe he or she would come up once and ring the bell to at least give you warning they won't come up again if you don't shovel. Most often they would just skip you. At least this way a kind neighbor could help the elderly couple with shoveling or bringing up their mail rather than getting nothing.

Comment: Search for Light Spill (Score 2) 445

by Erik Noren (#44362075) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Setting Up Non-Obnoxious Outdoor Lighting?
There are a lot of resources easily found on Google that discuss the problem of light spill and how improperly directed lighting is more dangerous than no lighting (since it creates dark spots and an illusion of safety).

The most recommended solution is to use lower power lighting and more units if necessary, ensure they are equipped with shades that direct the light down and make all effort possible to keep the light from being direct at the observer's eyes as that is the biggest problem with safety (and comfort). Lights that are elevated above people are the hardest to prevent from shining in eyes as they have to be restricted quite heavily to a small spotlight beneath them to prevent blinding people on approach and created dark spots. Keep the lights low, directed down and out of eyes!

I tried to find a collection of fixture designs I saw circulated a few months back but my search-fu is weak today. It basically compared designs of common lighting figures and pointed out the problems. For instance light bollards are generally quite useful since they sit below most people's eyes but poorly designed ones allow light to shine upward and into the observer's eyes directly causing night blindness. A proper bollard uses a shade or proper design to ensure the light is directed out and down and none up toward the eyes. Keeping the lighting level low and using more bollards makes it easier for people to transition into dark areas where the bollards can't go without causing them undo strain.

An anecdotal story: where I lived outside DC there was a bike / walking trail that followed the road until a certain point where it diverged into a more scenic area. The whole path was lined with tall traffic lights that shone quite brightly but where the path diverged, the lights didn't follow. The path was equipped with either timed or motion lights (that didn't detect motion well) at a completely different intensity but still quite high and shining outward. Walking that path in late dusk was super hazardous because you couldn't see where you were going. The lights would go on and off and the shadows it cast made it impossible to see if you were going to step in a hole or if the dark areas under the groups of trees you had to walk past had anyone concealed. It was a horrible design and it rendered the path unusable.

Comment: Re:Military using common GPS? (Score 3, Insightful) 647

by Erik Noren (#38389522) Attached to: US Sentinel Drone Fooled Into Landing With GPS Spoofing
There's no secret or trick to it - you just broadcast the same way as a GPS sat (the protocol is well documented) and since the broadcast is local, it's more powerful than Satellites. People use GPS jamming devices to get out of paying tolls in the US - that's just broadcasting noise on the right channel. Spoofing is more refined - broadcasting actual offsets in the right channel. Really, military grade equipment should use some inertial tracking as well to prevent sudden-location shifts common with spoofing. But hindsight, weight limitations, etc.

Comment: Re:Where are you planning on working? (Score 1) 1021

by Erik Noren (#24092981) Attached to: Learn a Foreign Language As an Engineer?
The benefits of learning even small parts of another language exceed the practicality of using it as a part of your job.

I work with a great deal of people from various parts of India. Though Hindi is not learned universally in India, everyone I have spoken with has a fairly good grasp of it.

I learned from a book and from speaking to my coworkers. It's help build some friendships where none would have existed before and gave me the chance to augment my team with tremendous resources others had passed off because of a "language barrier." (There was no barrier; just because the grammatical structure is different doesn't mean you can't understand them if you want to. Some just didn't want to. C'est la vie - it worked out to my benefit.)

My grandfather was Norwegian so I started learning Norwegian Bokmal quite passively. As the years go by, I grow more interested in the country and culture. They are some amazing people! As a consequence, when some programmers came during Thanksgiving to get trained on a piece of MOSS software we wrote for Microsoft (did that just earn me a -1 Troll?) I was invited to attend. In this case, learning a language was an opportunity to network! As a benefit, I can now read and understand Danish and I can even understand great swaths of Dutch (which seems easier to compare to Norwegian than Swedish.)

Even if it is unlikely you will need a language for your job, there are other benefits. The important part is finding something to get you interested. It is much easier to learn a language if you have a connection to it in some way. Coworkers provide a great connection. A family history is another. A coworker of mine is learning Czech because his wife's family speaks it.

You'd be surprised how easy it is to start a conversation with someone you'd normally have no connection with (run into many engineers in the wild, do you?) by trying to speak to them in their language. Hell, I've had long conversations with people who I've mistaken their accent for one from a language I've spoken! It's a great common ground!

*These are my experiences. Your mileage may vary. Offer void in Texas.
United States

+ - FBI to Investigate CIA Tape Destruction

Submitted by
An anonymous reader writes "The US Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that the FBI will be investigating the destruction of detainee interrogation tapes by CIA personnel. CIA Director Michael Hayden claimed the tapes were destroyed to protect the identities of CIA personnel and it is widely believed these tapes showed the use of torture by the CIA. The FBI will conduct the investigation under the direction of First Assistant US Attorney John Durham instead of the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia who has been recused to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest."
PlayStation (Games)

+ - Folding@Home and the Playstation 3

Submitted by
Clete2
Clete2 writes "Not even a full day after the release of the Folding@Home client for the Playstation 3, the total computing power of a mere 6,860 Playstation 3 systems has surpassed that of a vast 158,806 Windows computers! The Playstation 3 systems are calculating at a total of 168 Teraflops per second, whereas the Windows machines are calculating at a total of 151 Teraflops per second.

This is an amazing feat for such a small number of Playstations to outperform an enormous number of computers. Full credit must be given to both Sony and the guys at Folding@Home for negotiating building a client right into the Cross Media Bar. This is pure genius. It is not possible to build clients straight into all computers, but with a controlled environment like the Playstation 3, it is ideal...

Full Article."
Power

+ - Robert Bussard's Fusion Reactor

Submitted by
bdb111
bdb111 writes "This article from DefenseNews.com details Robert Brussard's work in creating a viable Fusion Reactor.

"On Nov. 11, 2005, the day his small fusion reactor exploded in a shower of sparks and metal fragments, even physicist Robert Bussard didn't know what he had achieved."

"The following Monday, we started to tear the lab down. Nobody had time to reduce the data that was stored on the computer. It wasn't until early December that we reduced the data and looked at it and realized what we had done," he said. Bussard said he and his small team of scientists had proven that nuclear fusion can be harnessed as a usable source of cheap, clean energy."
Microsoft

+ - Mysterious Bill Gates Recording Tracked Down

Submitted by Mitchell Bogues
Mitchell Bogues (1058890) writes "A 1-1/2 -hour recording of Bill Gates addressing a crowd of university students in the late '80s was recently found and digitised, and has been circulating the IRC channels for the past few weeks. While no one really seems to know exactly where the talk took place or who first put it online, the speech seems to have found a permanent home on the web page of the University of Waterloo CS Club.

The talk itself covers the past, present, and future of computing as of 1989. While the former two can be interesting to the high-tech historian, the real star is Bill Gates' prediction of computing yet to come. Like his legendary '640k' line, some of Gates' remarks are almost laughably off-mark ('OS/2 is the way of the future,' for one); and yet, by and large, he seems to have accurately prophesied an entire decade or two of soft- and hardware development. All in all, a fascinating talk from, it seems, one of the most powerful speakers in CS and IT."
Data Storage

Everything You Know About Disks Is Wrong 330

Posted by kdawson
from the mean-time dept.
modapi writes "Google's wasn't the best storage paper at FAST '07. Another, more provocative paper looking at real-world results from 100,000 disk drives got the 'Best Paper' award. Bianca Schroeder, of CMU's Parallel Data Lab, submitted Disk failures in the real world: What does an MTTF of 1,000,000 hours mean to you? The paper crushes a number of (what we now know to be) myths about disks such as vendor MTBF validity, 'consumer' vs. 'enterprise' drive reliability (spoiler: no difference), and RAID 5 assumptions. StorageMojo has a good summary of the paper's key points."
Hardware Hacking

+ - Homebrewed Industrial Process Monitor?

Submitted by pionzypher
pionzypher (886253) writes "I work at a glass plant for a major beer company. My job for the most part entails monitoring the furnaces that melt the glass. I have been working on a project on the side, collecting data from various sources and compiling it into an easily used form for the higher ups. I've finished two of our three furnaces, but one remains. This furnace uses technology from the early nineties. There is no networking, the hardware is completely closed and unavailable for any screen scraping.

Two of the items I'm looking to monitor (and would appear to be the easiest starting point) are two valves for a gas and oxygen line which will provide data on a portion of our energy usage. I was thinking of a microcontroller board or something similar tied in to monitor the positions of the valves. I'm unsure where to begin though.

What books, microcontroller boards or alternatives would you recommend for someone new to this? Do's and Don't's?"

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